The Pandemic Treaty: Implications for West and Central Africa

date Published on 05/24/2024

The global community is on the verge of a major breakthrough in public health policy: the Pandemic Treaty, officially known as the International Instrument for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response. This international agreement is currently being negotiated by the member states of the World Health Organization (WHO), with the aim of strengthening global cooperation to better prepare for, prevent and respond to future pandemics. As negotiations continue, civil society organizations (CSOs) are voicing their concerns and demands, particularly those representing West and Central Africa, regions that have historically faced significant public health challenges.

Overview of the Pandemic Treaty

The Pandemic Treaty aims to foster greater international collaboration in pandemic preparedness and response. Key elements currently under negotiation include:

  • Sharing resources and pathogens: Facilitate the equitable distribution of medical supplies and the sharing of essential biological materials.
  • Early warning systems: Establish robust mechanisms for the timely detection and reporting of potential pandemics.
  • Research and development: Promoting the development and dissemination of vaccines and treatments.
  • Equitable access: Ensuring that all countries, whatever their economic status, have access to medical countermeasures.

Negotiations began in 2021, with the most recent discussions concluding in May 2024. A final vote on the treaty text is scheduled for the World Health Assembly in May 2024.

Concerns raised by civil society organizations

Despite the treaty's promising objectives, civil society organizations (CSOs) have expressed significant concerns about the current draft. They argue that the draft does not establish a truly equitable and cooperative framework. The main problems highlighted by CSOs include :

  • Lack of transparency and public participation: The negotiation process has been criticized for its lack of transparency and limited opportunities for public participation.
  • Weak accountability measures: The project lacks robust mechanisms to hold countries to account for their commitments.
  • Emphasis on voluntary measures: Reliance on voluntary compliance rather than binding obligations raises doubts about the treaty's effectiveness.
  • Intellectual property concerns: Intellectual property provisions could hamper access to essential medicines and vaccines.
  • Perpetuation of the status quo: The project is seen as reinforcing existing inequalities rather than tackling the root causes of global health disparities.

Implications for West and Central Africa

CSO concerns are particularly relevant to West and Central Africa, regions that have endured major health crises, including the Ebola epidemics and the persistent challenges posed by infectious diseases. The West and Central Africa region has faced many challenges, in particular disparities in access. The equitable distribution of resources and the establishment of robust early warning systems are crucial for these regions, where health infrastructures are often underdeveloped and underfunded.

CSO demands for an improved treaty

CSOs have formulated clear demands to ensure that the Pandemic Treaty meets the needs of all countries:

  • No pressure: CSOs campaign against any pressure to accept the initial project proposed by the WHO and the Bureau (organizers).
  • Member State control: They insist that member states should retain the freedom to modify the initial text and continue negotiations until a consensus is reached.
  • Transparent process: There should be clear information about upcoming meetings, including format (formal/informal), timing and topics, to ensure transparency and inclusiveness.

Conclusion

As the world moves towards the finalization of the Pandemic Treaty, it is crucial that the voices of all stakeholders, particularly those in vulnerable regions such as West and Central Africa, are heard and taken into account. The treaty has the potential to transform global health security, but only if it truly reflects the principles of fairness, transparency and accountability. For more detailed information and current updates, please visit the Third World Network.

By addressing these concerns and ensuring a truly inclusive negotiation process, the Pandemic Treaty can become a landmark agreement that not only prepares the world for future pandemics, but also promotes global health equity. CSOs can contact their Ministries of Health to express their concerns.

You can find the latest version of the treaty here.

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